Mullins glad to finally net Irish Grand National joy
Willie Mullins smashed his BoyleSports Irish Grand National hoodoo as Burrows Saint led home a one-two-three for the trainer in the marathon handicap chase at Fairyhouse.
The well-backed 6-1 favourite was given a confident ride by Ruby Walsh, who was winning the race for the third time, to lift the first prize from stable companions Isleofhopendreams and Acapella Bourgeois.
Total Recall, another of Mullins' seven runners, set the pace before Whisperinthebreeze built up a lead on the final circuit.
He was soon reeled in by Mullins' brigade though, with Burrows Saint, owned by Rich Ricci, going on from three out.
Walsh kept a bit in reserve on the six-year-old to hold the challenge of Isleofhopendreams (20-1), also second last year.
Acapella Bourgeois (18-1) was third to complete a Mullins clean sweep, with Snugsborough Benny (14-1), trained by Liam Cusack, in fourth.
Mullins, who also landed his first Cheltenham Gold Cup victory with Al Boum Photo in March, admitted he had not expected Walsh to opt for Burrows Saint.
He said: "Ruby was very confident throughout, but I thought Johnny Burke (on Acapella Bourgeois) was too and all our riders rode the last mile fantastic.
"I was a little bit worried when Pairofbrowneyes fell early and then C'est Jersey followed him.
"Then our horses were up in the front five or six all the time, and they were jumping great.
"That was the plan - to have everything jump off up there. Total Recall was jumping too well and too free, and he got tired.
"It was a tremendous result. It's just been one of those years where we have done things that we haven't done before.
"It's tremendous for Ruby and for Rich Ricci. We're delighted to win it for the yard too.
"I was a little surprised Ruby chose him as I thought he might go for something with more experience. He gave him a great feel the two days he won on him. I think that's his third run in six weeks, so it shows what kind of ability he might have."
French Made reversed Cheltenham form to land the spoils in the Rathberry & Glenview Studs Juvenile Hurdle.
The Mullins-trained filly had finished behind Gardens Of Babylon and Coeur Sublime when eighth in the Triumph Hurdle on only her second start over jumps.
Having learned from that experience, French Made (6-1) knuckled down at the business end to score by half a length from Gardens Of Babylon, the pair pulling 14 lengths clear of Coeur Sublime.
"I was hoping that we might get her placed," said Mullins. "Chatting to Ruby, we both thought she stayed and I said, 'Get her to jump over the first few hurdles and be up there in the first three'.
"Her form in France showed that she was always staying on and it looked like she wanted a further trip. That was the plan and we were hoping she'd stay on to be third or fourth, but she stayed on to win.
"That opens a lot of doors. We'll look at Punchestown and she's one that will definitely go back to France for the meetings in May and June."
Mullins ended the day with a hat-trick courtesy of Golden Spread in the Cawley Furniture (Pro/Am) INH Flat Race.
Partnered by Barry O'Neill, the 5-1 shot beat stablemate Mt Leinster by a length and a quarter.
"He's a lovely, staying horse," said Mullins. "Barry was wondering if he was going fast enough in front, but every time something came behind him, it just pushed him along."
Paddy Kennedy got The Holy One home just ahead of his brother Jack on Kuiper Belt in the Farmhouse Foods Novice Handicap Hurdle and then had to survive a stewards' inquiry.
The Holy One (20-1) took over the lead from Licklighter after the third-last flight but was hard-pressed on the run-in, and Jessica Harrington's six-year-old was all out to hold on by a neck, with Jon Ess half a length away.
"He drifted out a bit, but Paddy said that if he had pulled his stick through he would have hit the other horse," said Harrington. "He battled well and I'm delighted with him. I don't know if the ground was just a bit too sticky for him or what happened in Limerick last time.
"He loves that good ground and he'll head on to Punchestown now."
Bottom-weight Maeve's Choice stuck on well for Bryan Cooper to keep Spades Are Trumps at bay by three quarters of a length as Matthew Smith's gelding followed up a recent Ballinrobe success.
Sizing Rome (4-1 favourite) came out on top by a length after a battle with Goose Man in the Fred Kenny Lifetime Service To Racing Handicap Chase.
Jim Dreaper's seven-year-old was driven right out by Keith Donoghue to take the extended three-mile prize and win for the third time in his last four starts.
"It was magic. He's a big, honest, old-fashioned chaser," said Tom Dreaper, assistant to his father. "It's great winning a length from a handicapping point of view."